Objective: To examine trends in the utilization and cost of eye care in the Medicare population.
Methods: Data were obtained from fee-for-service physician claims (Part B) from a 5% sample of Medicare beneficiaries 65 years and older. Use of eye care services and procedures, frequency of ocular diagnoses, and allowed charges were compared for each year from 1991 through 1998.
Results: The proportion of beneficiaries receiving eye care increased from 41.4% to 48.1% during the 8-year period. Part B charges attributable to eye care decreased from 12.5% to 10.4%, with annual inflation-adjusted charges per beneficiary decreasing from 235 dollars to 176 dollars (1998 dollars). The proportion of beneficiaries with cataract-related claims increased from 23.4% to 27.3%, accounting for approximately 60% of eye care charges each year; beneficiaries with retinal disease claims increased from 7.8% to 11.4%, capturing 15.4% of eye care charges in 1998, up from 10.7% in 1991; and beneficiaries with glaucoma claims increased from 6.8% to 9.5%, accounting for nearly 10% of eye care charges each year.
Conclusions: The proportion of the Medicare population receiving eye care increased between 1991 and 1998. Nevertheless, eye care costs did not increase, primarily because of constraints in charges associated with the management of cataract.